Gareth Evans – Remarks at Handover of VH-OQA
Published on 15th March 2015

Few people who saw it will forget the sight of OJA descending into the Illawarra last Sunday morning.

It was a special day, marking a new partnership between Qantas, HARS and Shellharbour City Council.

Since the moment we announced our plans for OJA, we’ve had incredible support from the local community.   And we’re very proud to put this iconic aircraft on public display for the first time this morning.

I’d like to first acknowledge Bob De La Hunty and Mayor Saliba – without your leadership, this donation simply would not have been possible.

I’d also like to acknowledge the Qantas crew who took charge of OJA’s final flight:

In a way, they completed the journey that began with Captain David Massey-Greene and his crew over a quarter of a century ago, on that record breaking delivery flight from London.

OJA was our first 747-400 – the first of a new generation of aircraft that have transformed the industry.

The new fleet was named ‘Longreach’, in honour of Qantas’ origins in regional Queensland.   Since then, OJA has operated almost 14,000 flights and carried more than 4 million passengers.

Hundreds of our pilots, crew, engineers and other employees have come to know and love this aircraft.  In fact, many of them are here today as HARS volunteers.

OJA holds a special place in our history.  But it’s part of a larger story, too.

It was the early 747s that first made air travel affordable to large numbers of Australians in the 1970s.  With the 747-400, aviation took another leap forward – in technology, in fuel efficiency and in passenger comfort.

OJA served Qantas well – it served Australia well – for 25 years.  And we’re thrilled that its story will live on here at the Illawarra Regional Airport.

HARS plays a vital role in curating Australia’s rich aviation heritage.

We have no doubt that the team here will do a superb job of preserving OJA for future generations, as it joins other historically significant aircraft in the HARS collection.

As we present OJA to HARS, I’m pleased to make a further announcement.

Qantas often gets requests from production studios to film movie scenes on aircraft.   For operational reasons, we have to say no to most of these requests.

With OJA here in the Illawarra, there is now an opportunity to meet that demand.

From now on, OJA will be available for use as a film set.

We believe this represents not just a meaningful second career for OJA, but also a great tourism opportunity for the region.

There is already interest from representatives of major US film studios, who will visit OJA next month.  And the economic benefits of production activity are potentially significant.

Of course, any filming would have to be approved by both Qantas and HARS.   And it would go hand in hand with the priority of making OJA available to the public.

Ultimately, our goal is to bring this magnificent aircraft to the widest audience possible – whether here at Illawarra Regional Airport, or on the big screen at cinemas around the world.

Once again, a sincere thanks to Bob De La Hunty, Mayor Saliba and the many people at Qantas and HARS responsible for making this happen.   We know that OJA is in the best possible hands.

A special thanks again to the Qantas pilots who join us today.

And a huge thank you to the local community for showing us such amazing support.

It gives me great pleasure to officially sign over VH-OJA – the City of Canberra – to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society.

© The Official News Room of Qantas Airways Limited ABN 16 009 661 901